mrissa: (Default)

A few weeks ago, when we were having a rash of notable deaths, one of my friends was asking, in her grief, whether it would just be like this from here on out. One of her icons, one of her heroes, after another. And Tim very quietly said to me, “Now would be a great time to start liking the work of artists younger than yourself. Every time is a great time.”

Well: yeah. And the immediate aftermath of a death is not the right time to say it more loudly than that, which is why I waited. But yeah. Because you’re not trying to replace anybody. No one will ever replace the artists of your childhood, the people who inspired you in your teens, those who touched your heart and lifted your mind in the first days you were an adult. Those people are irreplaceable.

But that doesn’t mean you go quietly into a downhill spiral of fewer and fewer artists to love. I think too many people do. The studies show it: most people stop liking new music in their late twenties or early thirties. They stop seeking it out–or maybe they never sought it out, and they stop being in situations where it finds them automatically. I think this is maybe less true on average for books and movies, but still somewhat true: the shape of things you seek out slows down.

And it gets easier to feel like the world is getting worse. Like things are getting sadder, diminishing. But they’re not. There’s more good stuff out there. The kids are not only all right, they can be there so that when the artist who was 30 when you were 15–30 and living hard, 30 and partying all night on the tour bus–turns out to be mortal, as statistically it turns out a great many of us are–there’s the artist who was 15 when you were 30.

And no, they don’t sound the same. They won’t feel like being 17 and having your life ahead of you. They’ll feel like being 37, or 57, or 87. And still choosing to have your life ahead of you.

That’s a pretty good thing to sound like too.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

This is in response to a locked post a friend made about how hard it can be to talk about things when you’re doing badly, without minimizing or feeling like you’re whining. I wrote most of the post and then realized that people might think I was being subtle about myself instead of reacting to a friend. But: locked post, cannot link. Sorry.

Some years ago, a friend of mine lost her partner (also a friend of mine). In addition to his death–as if that wouldn’t have been enough–my friend also lost her voice for quite some time, and there was an incident with a falling piano, and…yeah. It was not a good scene for my friend. Everyone who knew her knew of the string of bad things, but those of us in town had more opportunity to actually spend time with her.

Then I went to World Fantasy, and I ran into some people I know by name but do not know well. They were friends with my friend. And when I mentioned her name, they immediately said, “Oh yes, how is [friend]?” And I said, very firmly, “She’s doing just great.” They reared back and stared at me as though I had grown a second head. Doing great?, they asked incredulously. I, in turn, stared at them as though they had grown additional heads and said, “I don’t know how much better anyone could expect her to do under the circumstances!” Well, no, they agreed. Under the circumstances. Really one could not. But we sort of looked at each other funny for the rest of the conversation.

And it is hard to find the balance between informing people of bad stuff that’s going on and feeling like you’re whining. It really is. But this is also complicated by the fact that friends and other people of goodwill can’t rely on coming from the same cultural perspective on this. Even when one is speaking on behalf of someone else and not worrying about whining–and Lord knows if anyone had earned a whine that fall it would have been my friend–what message is conveyed by what level of response is highly, highly culturally determined. I would have felt disloyal if I’d said something that, in retrospect, was more like they seemed to expect, more along the lines of, “Poor dear, with all she’s been through it’s a wonder she can put one foot in front of the other to get from bed to bathroom.” It was a wonder. But she was doing it, and I didn’t want to give the impression that she was not. They already knew the practical details–I knew this was not a situation where I was going to be called upon to say, “Oh, had you not heard the terrible news?”

And I think one of the major cultural obstacles to overcome in achieving actual communication is how much people are expected to state the emotionally obvious. Sometimes it’s a relief to turn to someone and say, “I’m really sad right now,” or, “This has been very stressful for me.” But sometimes it’s also a great relief not to have to. Sometimes it’s a very great relief for the person or people you’re with to think, “Hmm, gee, Friend’s partner died, maybe Friend is REALLY SAD, I’ll do something nice,” without having to spell out every moment: “Still sad. Yep, still devastated. Life still in chaos due to very sad thing, yep yep.”

Sometimes you have to do that. Sometimes that’s just how it works out. But wow, is it another layer of difficult just when people don’t need more difficult. And it’s a thing to keep an eye out for a) when writing people from different cultures and b) in trying to be compassionate in, y’know, real life.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

Today I’m wearing the shirt I bought when my grandpa was dying.

There are drawbacks to having a very sticky memory, and this is one of them: Grandpa died six years ago, and I have never once worn this shirt without thinking of the circumstances of its purchase. It’s a lovely bottle green, it’s a fabulous color for me, the fabric is soft…but it is permanently the shirt that I bought when my grandpa was dying.

I sometimes think that after six years I should stop having this lurching vertiginous feeling every time we do something with my side of the family and I’m in charge of making the reservations or buying the tickets or whatever. Every time–every single time–I have a horrible moment of conviction that I have reserved (or bought or whatever) the wrong number. And my brain doesn’t forget at those times. It’s not that I have moments of thinking Grandpa is still alive. Because what I invariably think is, “Where’s Grandpa going to sit?” So the thing in my brain that lurches like that knows that it’s Grandpa missing. But it happens every time, and it’s not tied to a number. My brain knows that we are different numbers at different times. We’re just…always one less than we’re supposed to be, whether we’re four or five or six or seven or…I don’t know, it could get up to seven billion, I suppose, and it’s still seven billion but no seat reserved for Grandpa.

I hate the second week of March.

And it’s not just Grandpa; Gran died on the same day as he did. I have this sense of doom every March. It’s good to keep an eye on that sort of thing so that you don’t mistake it for actual knowledge, and I’ve had this same sense of doom last year and the year before and so on, with no actual doom attached. My dark forebodings should not be reinforced with confirmation bias. The people I love who are going through tough medical things are not any likelier to have a hard time because of my feelings about early March.

Still and all. I am always glad when we get through this bit.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

We have all sorts of things going on, tasks and chores and ideas, attempts at healing and social things, worries and relief. And threaded over and under and around and through it is the fact that we are coming up on the fifth anniversary of my grandpa’s death. Like his mother before him, he died on March 16, cementing the next day’s St. Patrick’s Day associations for me pretty permanently. Maybe there’ll come a time when I don’t think of it, but I kind of doubt that. On the day he died, I was so glad and so grateful to have a loved one cooking corned beef and cabbage for us because it was hot food made with love, but now the association is so strong I hope I never eat it again.

I brought all his books home and cataloged them and stacked them up, and I have been reading through them. Some of them I bounce off, some I read through, and you see them in my book post. There were hundreds. Now there are less than twenty. When I realized the five-year anniversary was coming, I was grateful that there were not fewer, because I will soon be done reading Grandpa’s books, and if there had been two or three, if there had been only a handful, it might have felt like the right thing to try to finish on the anniversary, and I think that would have been wrong. I think that would have been too much synchronicity to bear, and yet it would have been hard to resist that kind of narrative pull. So I will just keep at it steadily, and I will finish reading them when I finish reading them. The universe is full of ragged ends and things that don’t come out evenly, and that is better than okay, it is good. The tidy packages, the tied-up strings, they are not how life works.

When I have finished reading my grandpa’s books that he owned, I will be okay. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I will cry. I will probably cry like my heart is breaking all over again, because it will be one more thing, one more piece of loss. But I can never lose my grandpa all the way. I knew that the day he died, and I was right; I know it just as much now. Every year for his birthday I buy myself a book for Grandpa and me. And it’s a good tradition, but that thing I said up there about things coming out evenly, I meant it, so if I’m somewhere in an odd little bookshop and I find a book for Grandpa and it’s not coming up on February 1, I buy it for Grandpa and me anyway. Or I get it from the library for Grandpa and me. Of course it’s not the same. It’s not remotely the same, that’s the horrible part. But I can only do the part I can do, and this is the part I can do, the stories, the remembrance, my side of the conversation.

And putting more of the protag’s grandpa in the book I’m revising. Because he belongs there, and because.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (Default)

In my internet wanderings, I ran into this open letter to lung cancer patients who smoked. And…I feel pretty strongly this way. I run into obits sometimes where they specify that someone died of lung cancer even though they never smoked, and I think to myself, because if they had, their families wouldn’t have permission to grieve? My grandpa smoked, back in the day, and he quit before I was born, but his COPD contributed to his death. He didn’t have to earn my grief with perfect lung-related behavior. He didn’t even have to earn my grief with perfect Grandpaing. Not a one of us is perfect. Not a one, though some of us are amazing. Sometimes we get a chance to do better. We try our best, except sometimes we don’t. We try our best at the things we can manage. Except sometimes we don’t. And we love each other anyway. And then we’re gone, and we’re allowed to grieve. We don’t have to justify our grief with righteousness.

I get upset about this in the fundraising letters from the charities I support. Habitat for Humanity sends me these letters about these families in trouble, all the good choices they’ve made and how they’re in trouble anyway, the virtuous poor, and I think, okay, yes, I believe in those virtuous poor, I believe that happens sometimes, but. But. I also believe in people who didn’t make perfect decisions and still need a place to live. It’s all right to say, “We believe that it’s not okay for people to be homeless.” It’s entirely fine to say, “We are people who think that other people should have a safe warm place to sleep. Is that who you are too? Join us. Be people who think that too. Be those people, together.”

mrissa: (getting by)

I never met the man, but you can spot him at whatever age. Whether you’re watching the Weavers videos from 1951 or the concerts before the first Obama inauguration in January of 2009, Pete led with his grin. You can see immediately that it’s the same guy because he’s lifting his chin and grinning in the same way. With so many 94-year-olds, you’d say, well, he had a good run, or, I guess he was about done, it was time for a rest. But with Pete, no; with Pete there was still so much to do. There was always so much to do.

Because Pete Seeger was one of those people who appeared to honestly and truly believe in improving the world. All the way through. He was blacklisted and shut out for so many years after the HUAC testimony, and he kept on singing about making the world a better place, and he kept on making the world a better place. I’m a Gen Xer, the young end of Gen X; grunge and cynicism are my coming-of-age music. Also I am not a fan of the banjo. But in college I discovered Pete Seeger, and I just couldn’t resist. Fell in love with the Peteness right away. And when you hear him in person, as we did in 2011, when you hear him sing “We Shall Overcome”–not only do you believe for a minute that we shall, but for a minute you can even believe in we. Even if you’re a congenitally grumpy Xer. Because Pete.

Just last week, Timprov and I were driving home with four new tires and zero new photos (…long story), and I asked what he wanted on the CD player. And he said, “I don’t care…wait, have we got More Together Again?” And we did, so we put it in: Pete with his grandson Tao and Arlo Guthrie and other musicians they know and like. And we sang along all the way home, “Midnight Special” and “Abiyoyo” and “Guantanamera” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “This Land Is Your Land,” all of it, all of it, through the dark night home with Pete.

Edited to add: I realized the obvious thing to link. Here, have Precious Friend.


Nov. 21st, 2013 10:59 pm
mrissa: (getting by)

I was worried, because I hadn’t heard from her at Christmas in the last few years, not even just a signed card. I made out my Christmas card list today, and when I wrote, “Marylyn,” I stopped and looked at it and hoped, and hoped, and wondered.

And tonight I find that my Marylyn died on Tuesday night.

She was my seventh grade English teacher, one of the two absolutely formative English teachers I had as a writer. (Ron Gabriel is gone from us also.) After that she was my friend, genuinely and honestly my friend, and we would get together and have coffee and pie at the Garden Cafe. She was one of the first adults who was my friend when I was a kid, not because of my parents but because of me, one of the first adults who taught me how good that can be, being friends across decades. The kids I have in my life, if I am good for them at all, owe a portion of that goodness to Marylyn Bremmer.

I feel like I should be able to put words on the flood of memories I have, on her merry laugh and her grave tones of serious advice, on the time she terrified a room full of smartass seventh graders into maybe taking a little better care with each other from then out. On the imitation she did of a Texan doing Mark Antony’s funeral oration. On the way she looked at the description I’d written of my friend Becca and said, “She sounds so very much like my Charlotte,” and we could talk about girl friends and lasting friends and what all that meant. I’ll pull myself together and write something coherent in the condolence letter to her family. But mostly I just keep hearing her chuckling in my head, saying, “Now remember, dear, when you publish your first novel, make sure the dedication page has it m-a-r-Y-l-y-n.”

Do not approve. Am not resigned.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (getting by)
About six years ago, I wrote a post about Nana and the last of her home-canned peaches. And I talked about how lucky we were to have her still, and to have her be so much herself, after what she called her "little spell" and the doctors called a hemorrhaging brain aneurism. (For those of you who don't follow the link: this is my "aunt" Kathy's mother.)

Nana died last night. And all I can think of was the time when she was caring for Nanu when he was so sick before he died, and how he said, "Dorothy, you've been so good to me, you're going to heaven for sure." And quick as a flash, she said, "Oh, no, Frank! I want to be with you!" There are so many Nana quotes that have made their way into my family's daily vocabulary--the top two are "Didn't you do that last time we went out?" and "Eat your fruit and go," but I'm sure there will come moments in the next few months when something comes out of my mouth and I stop and think, "Oh, that was from Nana." She was just one of those people you can't help smiling about even when you're crying.


Jul. 10th, 2012 11:26 pm
mrissa: (grandpa)
Today I hit a milestone, an even bigger one than this weekend, when my number in the library's queue to check out the Downton Abbey DVDs dropped below 100: I got through another pile of Grandpa's books.

Those of you who have been reading me awhile know that my grandpa and I were very close, and that when he died, I inherited his book collection. I've been reading them a bit at a time ever since. Grandpa would have been the last person to want me to push aside my own reading for his, and he'd have been the last person to want me to make myself miserable with his books, so when I'm pretty sure I know I don't want something, I put it aside. James Patterson and I, for example, have parted ways permanently. I have learned all I can about Grandpa and his tastes in books from reading the volumes of James Patterson I have already read, and more would do me harm. But there's other stuff in which we're a lot more congruent, and other stuff in which I look forward to finding out whether we are, or at least finding out what Grandpa saw in it.

So the books are all piled on his desk, here in my office. And...that's not the working desk. The only thing it gets used for other than holding books in the to-read queue is wrapping presents. And yet clearing some more space on it feels like a triumph. I'm not ready to be done reading Grandpa's books--good thing, too, since there are well over a hundred left. I haven't counted. But I am ready to feel like I'm making progress. I'm ready to feel like it isn't infinite. I think today, in particular, I needed something to feel like progress, and hitting another thousand words of book is great for that...up until the point where you've said, "I shouldn't have daily or weekly word count goals, that's not being healthy for me right now." Then, of course, you exceed what you would have set for them, the minute you drop them. Which maybe proves the point about how they weren't healthy? But also makes it hard to use them as the indicator of progress in quite the same way.

I keep reading my way through a book one of my godfathers gave Grandpa called The American Short Story. The The is underlined, and they mean it. They don't mean Some American Short Stories. They mean, by God, these are the most famousest ones that ever famoused. This book is remarkably ill-suited for how I talk about books. It's got The Turn of the Screw in it just kind of at random, sternly, this is something you should read, damn you, go read it, after some Melville but before you get to Hemingway. There are more than a thousand pages of this, and they are being quite firm about what is and is not canon. They know best. It isn't a book to read any more than his bird guide was a book to read (I read that too), any more than the Marine Corps Book of Lists was a book to read (I read that too), it's a thing you have to look up the things you're supposed to have read in, and then read them in bits. No wonder it sat in his chair-side magazine rack forever. I understand now. It's a staggering thing in its way.
mrissa: (grandpa)
This has happened to me three times now: I have been waiting in line in a public place with one of Grandpa's books. And a Nice Friendly Old Fella has noticed what I was reading and commented upon it favorably, because Grandpa's books tend to be Nice Friendly Old Fella Approved.

And then like an idiot I tell the NFOF that I inherited my grandpa's books and I am reading through them all.

And then the NFOF tears up. There in line at the post office or Target or wherever else. He gets sniffly about me and my grandpa's books.

I know it's not a bad kind of sniffly. It just makes me feel like a horrible cad, going around reading things and making NFOFs cry, and I feel like I should come up with something else to say that will not make them cry, but it just...comes out of my mouth. And I don't really feel like making a huge effort to avoid my grandpa in conversation. That is about the least Mrissish thing ever. So I just don't know what.
mrissa: (grandpa)
I now know that there is in the world--in my house, in fact--video of me walking in the snow with my grandpa at about age 3 or so. We went out to feed the birds, hand in hand, and I ran a little, and he came and scooped me up. And it was...just so very us.

Really hard to come upon it unknowing, but so good that it exists.

Dear universe: I will let you know when I am okay with this death thing, but for now the answer is still no.
mrissa: (grandpa)
In the last few months I've developed a new problem.

It's not that I've forgotten my grandpa has died. I could never, ever forget that. But I make a lot of verbal slips these days. I will be listing who was at Easter dinner and say, "MommanDad, GrandmandGrandpa--no, no, just Grandma." Or I will say, "The folks and the grands--Grandma, the folks and Grandma." This hurts like crazy every time I do it.

And when I get tickets for us to see a play or a concert or something, when I see how many there are, I have a moment of irrational panic because there isn't one for Grandpa.

And I know it's Grandpa there isn't one for. That's the crazy stupid hard thing. If I was forgetting that Grandpa was gone, I would think, "Oh no, I didn't get enough!" rather than, "Oh no, I didn't get one for Grandpa!"

I think what's going on here is that Grandma has now lived up here awhile. My brain is not going, "Hey! It's Grandma!" all the time. Things are now in some sense normal again. And hey, my subconscious totally knows what normal for my family of origin looks like! It's me. Mom and Dad. Grandma and Grandpa.

Sigh. I simultaneously want to stop doing this and do not want there to be a new, grandpaless normal. But it turns out the universe did not ask me.
mrissa: (grandpa)
I have always observed Valentine's Day with various people in my life--not just as a romantic love holiday, but as an excuse to give little people stickers and let older folks know I'm thinking of them and like that. Love is for everybody, and my family is a holidaying sort of family. Arbor Day, Syttende-Mai, collect 'em all. We are not theological syncretists much, most of us, but holiday syncretists, oh yes. Give us your cookies, your candles, your lucky money envelopes yearning to breathe free. We're totally there.

But I can't help but remember now that Valentine's Day was the day my grandpa went into the hospital, that last time. He didn't die until over a month later, the day before St. Patrick's Day. I never much liked corned beef and cabbage. I was so glad to have it the day Grandpa died, because it was a symbol of my aunt Kathy loving us and taking care of us, but ever since then the prospect of it makes my stomach revolt, because the smell refers back to not only Grandpa's loss but the day Gran died thirteen years earlier and the college cafeteria had the wretched stuff, and that wasn't anybody taking care of me at all.

And tonight the thaw refreezing smelled a particular way, when I opened the door to let the dog out, that recalled a March visit to Sioux Falls when I was very small, when we took Gran out for Chinese food, after Grandpa had discovered he liked Chinese food, and I walked out to the car with my dad and whacked my head into his hand for affection and he scruffed my hair and it was me and Daddy and Grandpa, walking to the car in the refreezing night, not a memory of anything, just a memory, keeping up with big strides on little legs, being together, Andes mint on my tongue. I know not everybody has that kind of vivid sense memory, but I do, and sometimes I don't know how I'd find my way through time without them.
mrissa: (grandpa)
One of the things I have been remembering about my grandpa lately is how little tolerance for stupidity he had. This may fall under the category of not discussing the faults of the dead, but in the context of his relationship with me it didn't feel like a fault, not the least little bit. He had no problem whatever with educating the ignorant, and his patience with people who were not naturally very quick-witted or were handicapped or had learning disabilities of whatever kind was a lot more extensive than most people's. It was people who could readily learn better and wouldn't who got to him, and he was always quick to make sure I knew that was what he meant. He would call me up when he was dealing with a particular group of people that frustrated him often, and he would say, "Rissy...they've apparently got stupid lying around over there that they haven't even used up yet...but they're trying." And I would say, "Let no one say they're not trying." (I had delighted, when I was about 5 or 6, in the dual meaning of "you're trying," and Grandpa and I sort of kept that as a thing between us for the rest of the time we had together.)

He also had some "saltier" expressions about The Dumb, maybe from his time in the Marines, and a few he cleaned up for me. He was very fond of "when God was handing out brains, so-and-so thought He said trains, and he/she didn't want to go anywhere." He laughed and laughed when I suggested, right before I got married, that this explained [ profile] markgritter (Mark is very fond of trains). He also used "too dumb to pour pee out of a boot" (which I know was cleaned up from the Marine version) and sometimes "too dumb to pour pee out of a boot with a spigot on the toe and instructions on the heel."

But my personal favorites were "he couldn't find his ass with both hands and a map" or "he couldn't find his ass with a torch and a native guide." When I was maybe 6, I came to him anxiously--I wasn't supposed to have overheard Grandpa fulminating about someone's stupidity quite so vehemently in the first place--and asked if he knew that a British person would think he meant a flashlight and a native guide. He kept an absolutely straight face and decided that he was all right with that. He had another one with an actual flashlight in it, but I'm forgetting it.

I haven't been running into particularly egregious stupidity lately, so I'm not sure why this is at the top of my stack. I think maybe it's because it makes me smile or laugh thinking of my grandpa sighing and rolling his eyes. Also because one of the things I love about Foyle's War is that Christopher Foyle doesn't suffer fools gladly either, and they often let him take the said fools completely to bits sometime in the course of the episode, and some of the things he does when he does that remind me a bit of Grandpa, though I didn't put my finger on it right away.
mrissa: (grandpa)
I am at the bit of The True Tale of Carter Hall where the Queen of Air and Darkness has turned Tam into a serpent and she still has to hang on. I am describing Janet holding this bloody great serpent.

And in my head all I can hear is my grandpa's voice saying, "They're not slimy! People think they're slimy, but they're not, they're dry and scaly."

He was really concerned that I not grow up to be a girl who was squeaky about snakes. I don't know how much of this book he would have liked, but he would have liked that I was clear that they were not slimy. And he would have known that was there for him.
mrissa: (reading)
Today is the anniversary of my grandpa's death. I am doing about like you'd expect with that. Over the last year I've gotten more perspective on how much he would have hated to lose mental acuity etc., so I am grateful he never did. But I still could have done with lots more Grandpa time. I keep thinking about how he told us dying was like learning to breathe underwater. I think I'm going to turn that one over in my head for quite some time.

Anyway. Books this fortnight.

Tim Blanning, The Pursuit of Glory: Five Revolutions That Made Modern Europe, 1648-1815. This is not what it says on the label. It's a really good history of Europe in the 18th century (acknowledging that neat and tidy dates don't always match up with social changes), with all sorts of chewy stuff about agriculture and manufacturing and travel and art and science and the good bits--if it slights anything, it's the Napoleonic Wars, which you can get elsewhere easily. I highly recommend it. But if you're primarily interested in revolutions, it will not be much good to you. I strongly suspect that the publisher felt that it needed a hook to get people to buy it, because for a lot of people "Hey, look! The 18th century!" is not that great a draw. But it should be that great a draw, because the 18th century has all sorts of fascinating bits.

Steven R. Boyett, The Architect of Sleep. Evolved raccoons! This was one of those books that was essentially an exploration of a setting, but done in a way that did not become annoying to me. It does not, however, end. It just sort of stops. I'm told that Boyett has published a sequel to another of his books from the same period, so I suppose I can hope for an ending one of these days, but it looked like it was really starting to go somewhere, and then I was out of book. Sigh.

Kylie Chan, White Tiger. This is pure wish-fulfillment fantasy. The main character starts out as a dumpy, mousy Australian nanny in Hong Kong, and with every skill she acquires, I thought, "Yyyyyeah, of course she's awesome at this too." But it was done so charmingly that I didn't actually mind and will be reading later books in the series as soon as I get my hands on them. It was fun. And, y'know, I think it's okay to have a book wherein the heroine discovers her own true level of awesomeness with the help of her new even-more-awesome friends. For some of us that's called college, but there are other places for it, too.

Mette Ivie Harrison, Mira, Mirror. I was all right with most of this book, which goes on from the Snow White story from the perspective of the mirror. But I hated the very ending. I thought it was implausible and badly set up and also not incidentally encouraged one of the major lines of excuse abusers try to make for themselves. Wheee! So: not recommended. Really not.

James Reston, Jr., Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536. This is not what it says on the label either. Publishers! I blame them, I do. In this case there was remarkably little Suleyman the Magnificent, not enough Charles V to really account for half of the book (much less the 85% the comparative dearth of Suleyman left), and lots and lots of stuff like the English Reformation. My theory is that anybody who is really fascinated with this era already knows the basics of the English Reformation, thankyakindly, and would have liked to find out more about the rest, particularly as we were promised parallels between how Charles V had to deal with Protestantism and how Suleyman had to deal with the Sunni/Shi'ite split in Islam. Those parallels were not delivered because there was--I tell you again--not nearly enough Suleyman. Ah well. Still had interesting tidbits here and there.
mrissa: (grandpa)
This morning I woke up with my grandpa's voice singing a medley of Credence Clearwater Revival songs in my head. He sang "Looking Out My Back Door" and "Up Around the Bend" and, just as I was waking up, "Bad Moon Rising."

Of course he didn't sing the right words to "Bad Moon Rising." He never did. He loved mistaken lyrics.

I think in some families this would be a disturbing experience, but I found it very comforting. Settling.

82nd, first

Feb. 1st, 2010 09:00 am
mrissa: (grandpa)
Today would have been Grandpa's 82nd birthday. It is the first of his birthdays we are observing without him.

I liked it better the other way.
mrissa: (grandpa)
Our library uses an auto-dialer when people have requested materials, so from time to time the phone will ring and ask for "MARESSA" in its robot voice. (I don't know what's wrong with its i's. They're terrible.) This time it noted that I needed to get to the library to pick up these materials "before February 1."

That is, before Grandpa's birthday.

And I had to smile, because getting to the library is exactly the sort of thing Grandpa would want me to do for his birthday. I can't count the number of times we went to the library together when I was little, which is more remarkable given that we lived several hundred miles apart. The Brooklyn Park library was very modern then, in the 1980s: it had been redecorated in bright primary colors, with royal blue tile and royal blue squodgy chairs in the children's section. It was in the same building as some other county stuff, and I remember walking into the building and turning to go to the library and thinking how nice it was that the judges and the lawyers and the juries and the people on trial could all go to the library after to get books and calm down if they were stressed out or upset by the verdict or the process. And I thought they should put good big libraries in more buildings, hospitals and office buildings and things, and people would be better for it, happier and calmer and quieter. I don't think I ever shared this thought with Grandpa, because I didn't need to, because it was too obvious that we would be in agreement on this.

There was never any question whether Grandpa would turn me loose in the children's section. He had his own books to attend to, and we both would have regarded anyone with scorn who wasn't sure whether I could handle myself in a library without help. And I would pick my books and settle into one of the squodgy blue chairs, and eventually Grandpa would come round and see if I was ready, and then we'd stop off at White Castle for him to get coffee and me to get hot chocolate, if it was winter, or at Dairy Queen for him to get a chocolate malt and me to get a banana-Heath bar blizzard if it was summer.

Later, when he and Grandma had moved down to Omaha where the folks and I were living at the time, he would take me to the downtown library or the university library if I needed to do research for a school project or something and the local library wouldn't do. Grandpa was very clear on "or something" having a broad interpretation for a girl who needed to look into things the school wasn't much interested in, because he was interested in things the school wasn't much interested in, too. And sometimes on the way home from that we'd stop in at Pageturners used bookstore on Dodge Street and see what they had there and go next door to the Cris Rexall drugstore to have chocolate malts, both of us, at the soda fountain. Mostly I went to the drugstore for malts with my friends while bookstoring, but sometimes with Grandpa too, on the way back from the library.

Later still, he would call me up and tell me that he'd been to the Ralston Public Library to see [ profile] greykev--he started going there instead of Millard Branch because of Kev--and after that he'd call to tell me that he'd been to the Ralston Public and they sure did miss [ profile] greykev around there now that he was off to school. (This is partly pure truth and partly Scandosotan Male for, "I sure do miss [ profile] greykev around here now that he's off to school.")

So yes, o library autodialer, I can make sure to get my library books by Grandpa's birthday. No problem.

The thing about my relationship with my grandpa is that I feel like it would take more effort not to do things to remember and honor him. The things to do to remember and honor him are so thick on the ground around here.


Dec. 29th, 2009 09:49 pm
mrissa: (tiredy)
Oh, man, kids. My proprioception is shot clean to hell today. It's disturbing as all get-out. Earlier I had to open my eyes to see where my hand was. Like whether it was up by my shoulder or down by my thigh--I knew I could logic my way through it, but the thing is you are not supposed to have to logic your way through, "Where is my hand?" It's one of the ones you're supposed to get for a freebie. It is always in the last place you put it. You should not have to try to estimate how bent your arm is by figuring out how many centimeters of inner elbow are pressed together. If you close your eyes to type, you should not have to reason that your hands are at the same level because you know you left the desk level when you closed your eyes. It is an extremely wrong thing what is wrong with its wrongness.

I don't like to whine, but this is the third Christmas that's been like this, and I could really do something else now.

One of you-all wished me a better ratio of happy niece time to nasty vertigo time, while I was in Wisconsin, and I had to say no, that's not how I do this. Because if I think of the two in ratios, in comparisons, then in some sense the vertigo is canceling out part of the niece time. (Or the time hanging out having dinner with people I love, or the time reading a good book or etc.) And I really need for it not to cancel. I really need for all the good stuff to still be here when I'm done doing the math. Because so far we have been only intermittently successful at making the bad stuff go away, and so if I make the good stuff into the antimatter form of bad stuff instead, that's no good at all, and I might explode.

There was lots of Christmas stuff with missing my grandpa that I expected to be hard, and it was hard. The bit I had not thought about at all that nearly undid me was that Grandpa always collected the trash, the torn wrapping paper and like that. He was the keeper of the bag. Mom hadn't thought of it, either. She immediately passed responsibility on to Daddy, and Christmas could continue. But it's always like that with grief: you think you have a handle on where it'll be hard, and you're always not quite right enough. Right enough to get through, and right enough to have the good memories, and right enough to have Orange Julius and gjetost. But--you never think of everything until it's right there.

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